The 2016 football regular season is complete, which gives us a chance to look back at the 10 best games of the year in the Lake Country/Waukesha/Mukwonago footprint (with plenty great ones left to come).
10. Mukwonago opens season strong. Facing Franklin, a team that went to Level 4 in 2015 and wound up finishing 8-1 in 2016, Mukwonago opened the season with a 22-13 victory, picking up a highlight-reel touchdown from Zach Genrich from 80 yards out that helped put the game on ice. Mukwonago, however, missed the playoffs for a second straight season thanks to another brutal dosage of the Classic 8 schedule.
9.Max Duchow delivers. Kettle Moraine was left lamenting some close calls in 2016 after just missing the playoffs, but a win over Muskego was a showcase of the Lasers at their best. Max Duchow, who posted some eye-popping numbers at quarterback over the year, threw for 306 yards and two scores, ran for another touchdown and also finished with an interception. Sam DeLany caught 12 passes for 170 yards and a score, and KM won, 38-29, eliminating the defending league champ from the playoffs. Muskego, which had taken a quick 14-0 lead in the game, went on to close the year winning its next three games.
8. Lake Country Lutheran downs St. Cat’s. Lake Country Lutheran has a standing playoff reservation in the Midwest Classic, but the season opener against Racine St. Catherine’s was an intriguing battle against two teams that would both go on to win outright conference titles. The Lightning registered a 28-18 victory, with Ryan Nehls rushing for two touchdowns and three LCL players grabbing interceptions.
7. Memorial wins defensive battle with AHS. Catholic Memorial passed every test this season, and perhaps the stiffest came from Arrowhead in a 7-3 win that counts as the closest call the Crusaders have endured in sweeping the Classic 8 this season. Ben Nimz found Max Cooper for a 40-yard touchdown late in the third quarter to mark the only touchdown. Both teams came away with three turnovers apiece.
6. Pewaukee wins Woodland West showdown. New Berlin Eisenhower scored 17 points in the fourth quarter but missed a 2-point conversion in the final 2 minutes in what amounted to a Woodland West title game. Pewaukee emerged, 26-24, and went on to win the overall Woodland crown.
5. Late score lifts Pewaukee over Wisco. Two of the gold-standard programs in Division 3 football have enjoyed a spirited recent nonconference rivalry, and this year’s meeting in Week 2 was no exception. Pewaukee, which went on to win the Woodland title, claimed a 22-19 victory over Wisconsin Lutheran thanks to two late touchdowns, including a catch by Connor Vogt with 16 seconds left.
4. Oconomowoc games. All of them. Pick one of Oconomowoc's games at random, and chances are you've landed on a crazy shootout. The Raccoons were no stranger to overcoming deficits and putting up a ton of points in the process, but the biggest win may have been against rival Hartford, a 48-42 win that became the first of two overtime victories in the Wisconsin Little Ten. Ben Nienhuis threw for 312 yards, and Zach Clayton caught seven passes for 113 -- far from the best single-game performances those two had in 2016, however. The team’s 50-40 win over Watertown or 20-14 win over Beaver Dam in overtime in subsequent weeks made for perhaps the zaniest three-game stretch anywhere in the state. The 42-35 win over Kettle Moraine in Week 1 – divided over two days because of a lightning delay – was also an epic.
3. Waukesha West beats Muskego at the buzzer. Muskego wound up winning its final three games of the year and would have been a playoff team had it not been for this jaw dropper to open the Classic 8 season on a Thursday night. With top running back Peter MacCudden injured on the previous play -- a moment of controversy, it should be noted -- Robert Kobza snuck in the winning touchdown as time expired to give West a thrilling 26-24 victory.
2. Arrowhead brings down defending champion. In what became a great short-lived tradition, powerhouses Homestead and Arrowhead again opened the season against each other, this time in a Thursday night battle Aug. 18. Homestead, the defending Division 2 state champion, had won the first two matchups before Arrowhead beat the Highlanders in 2015, and they never could catch the Warhawks in a 25-18 outcome this time around. AHS quarterback Jeff Holtz passed and ran for a touchdown each. Holtz, however, was injured in the game and didn’t play the rest of the year, and while the Warhawks took a couple lumps in the Classic 8, Homestead never lost again. It was a great first game for Fritz Rauch, the first-year Arrowhead coach who formerly served as longtime coordinator at Homestead.
1. Waukesha North tops Arrowhead. The Northstars had everyone's attention following a Week 3 stunner, 26-20, in which the struggling program knocked off a squad that had been to the past four Division 1 state finals. North ultimately fell short of a playoff berth, but for a while, North was the top story around the state. Taylor Anderson caught two scores, and North held off a furious fourth-quarter rally to prevail.